Ira Straus

What’s generating anti-Semitism? Can we stop it?

The anti-Semitism we’re seeing is being continuously generated by the “cutting edge” leftist and anti-Western ideology, and by the institutions that support this ideology.

This is a dangerously powerful generator. The dominant institutions of discussion in our society – the schools and media – have been the breeding grounds of this ideology.

What has gone wrong with the institutions?

For half a century, the institutions have had a mostly one-way ideological spirit. Their personnel have not all been radical leftists by any means, but they have tilted heavily to the left; and have nearly all subordinated themselves to the Left, even the ones of far more moderate persuasion.

They have practiced what Lewis Feuer called the “alienation of the superego”: the transference of their superego from the hands of the mainstream of society itself into the hands of its Left fringe. This fringe defines itself against the society, but the institutions of society have come to praise it frequently as “the conscience of our society”. They have in a sense lost their souls: they lose their actual, health conscience before society, and turn over their conscience into the hands of the accusatory Left.

Their tilt to the Left has fed on itself with time. Decade after decade, it has grown to more and more extreme disproportions.

The Consequences

It has turned our educational institutions into a fraud. They engage heavily in indoctrination. This is the opposite of education: it is an inoculation against actual education. It builds up in students vicious circles against learning better – both ideological circles and social-group circles. It is a kind of de-education of students.

It has turned our media into a fraud also. They spread misinformation with alarming frequency and lack of constraint, and on a mass scale. They protect this by using their power over the discourse spaces to defame correction of their falsehoods and exclude it instead as “misinformation”.

Their misinformation includes the continuous blood lie against the Jews. For five months on end, they have repeated daily the false accusation of indiscriminate Israeli bombing killing disproportionate numbers of civilians. They show they know it’s false, occasionally, by mentioning in passing the actual facts that refute it. But then they revert right back to their false narrative.

Student mobs: street enforcers for the media

The media are upset by the spread of social media, as they were upset by cable TV decades ago. It is a threat to their monopoly. They demand ever greater power to act as gatekeepers over this and control what information we can access. But at the same time, they have learned to use social media as a street-level enforcer for their tilt, mobilizing what used to be called “twitter mobs” to silence breaches in their front of gatekeeping.

The student movements play a role similar to the twitter mobs: they serve as street enforcers for where the media are tilting and pointing. The campus and social media mobs are not really new; they’re an extension of the longstanding practices of the Movement mobs on campuses which we saw in the 1960s, and have returned intermittently ever since.

The media and academic institutions have not only grown worse with time, but done it in tandem with one another. They naturally lock arms. Together, they can form an almost impenetrable barrier to real information and education getting through. Can, and often do.

This is how the minds of the youth are formed: by a “media-academia complex”. It is something far more real and fearsome than the military-industrial complex they used to talk about. It has made for epistemological closure for the intellectuals of each new generation. Students are brought up in a highly uniform ideological environment, one where they cannot very often find a breath of outside intellectual air to draw, and where most of them are well-trained in refusing to take the breath when it is there for them.

And so the tilt keeps feeding on itself and getting worse.

This must be changed.

But will it be changed?

Probably not.

And the hatred of Jews – will it change? Not if the institutions continue without fundamental change.

The underlying hatred in academia and the media is of America, and of the entire West. The hatred of the Jews is derivative from it, a kind of precipitation from a dark cloud. That is why they are able to tell themselves that they aren’t really anti-Semites. In their definition of things, anti-Semitism is what the Right does – and America and the West are the Global Right. When they do it, it’s simply the good anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism.

The hatred of the West and of America will endure long after this war is over. The hatred of the Jews may well recede for a time as an immediate focus. But it will not go away; it will be kept in reserve.

The underlying hatred of the West will not just endure but keep growing. It will keep feeding the hatred of the Jews.

How could this gloomy prognosis be changed?

  • It could change, if the institutions are drastically reformed, and the ideological imbalance among media and academic personnel not just reduced from its present extremes but replaced by an honest balance.
  • And it could change, if Israel wins the war with considerable totality. A lot Gazans would start telling the world the truth after that.

These are the two paths out of hell. The odds are steep for both of them. But they are both needed. We should see what we can do for them.

About the Author
Chair, Center for War/Peace Studies; Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council of the U.S.; formerly a Fulbright professor of international relations; studied at Princeton, UVA, Oxford. Institutions named above for identification purposes only; views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author.